For gadgets, small tweaks count. For certain tweaks, they can count more negatively than the offending company would like to recognize.
To cries of abandonment, Apple dropped the physical touch button on the iPhone in 2017 in the pursuit of minimalism.
As of this month, Tesla — which makes a gadget with wheels — dropped the turn signal and shifter stalks (aka stick) on the new Model 3, aka, Highland.
And not everyone is happy.
Long discussions on Reddit give ample testimony to the importance of the signal stick that has become second nature to drivers.
Some see it as a solution looking for a problem. Some commenters, for example, think it makes doing simple things less simple and believe Tesla is doing it only to reduce cost — not to boost convenience. Some cite roundabouts (aka rotaries) as problematic without a stalk.
But as this Youtuber explains (see bottom) it’s part of a larger design ethos push by Tesla to go minimalist and makes the car a cleaner design.
(Note: In 2021, Tesla dropped the turn signal stalk and shifter stalk on the relatively up-market, low-volume Model S. But that didn’t make the waves the Model 3 is, which is a high-volume, mass-market sedan.)
Tesla may have not-so-user-friendly goals
“Automakers are looking to cut costs, and they’ve proven they’re willing to sacrifice some usability to do so,” Edmunds news editor Will Kaufman told me in an email. He added that this may be a “hard sell” for Tesla.
“While this does fit Tesla’s minimalist ethos, it’s undoubtedly also part of their intensive pursuit of cost cutting,” he said.
Kaufman explains that this could make an existing problem worse.
“This design puts an important function (turn signals) on a moving target, as the wheel moves but a stalk does not. Many drivers are already bad at using their turn signals, so this could make the issue worse,” he said.
And the shifter is gone too
The shifter is another control that drivers intuitively reach for with memory muscle developed over decades.
“It’s particularly problematic for Tesla since going stalkless eliminates their shifter and moves it into the touchscreen, creating new issues in the event the touchscreen fails,” Kaufman said.
Of course, Tesla faced similar blowback when it went with a single display in the Model 3. Owners adapted and it’s now considered a “feature” on the Model 3 and Model Y.
We’ll see if the Tesla design ethos prevails and consumers buy into Tesla’s minimalism by the millions.